Friday, October 30, 2009

A Thousand Faces

Who better for Halloween week?

Lurking, just beneath the surface, an
Explosive rush of raw and human power
"Oriental", gangster, villain, or his specialty -
Nightmarish monsters from life's darkest hour;
In truth, when the makeup masterfully applied
Dissolved, a gentle visage was revealed -
A man of hard work, innate talent, grace,
Strength of character like no one in his field.

Lon Chaney

Friday, October 23, 2009

With Love to Fritz and Tony

The music of the West ran through their veins,
Two cowboys future men would emulate -
One glittering, one rugged as the plains.

Tom Mix, with his charisma, was champagne,
Bill Hart was whisky, honest, strong, and straight;
The music of the West ran through their veins.

Both men were masters of the rope and reins;
Each dusty trail a cinch to navigate -
One glittering, one rugged as the plains.

Hart's focus was the "real" West, the pain
And hardships, struggles sometimes very great;
The music of the West ran through their veins.

Mix was the King of Cowboys! Flash and fame,
Glitz and action, never second-rate.
One glittering, one rugged as the plains.

WHen one thinks of the Western, both their names
are equal cause to pause and venerate;
The music of the West ran through their veins.
One glittering, one rugged as the plains.

William S Hart and Tom Mix

Monday, October 19, 2009

Adults Only! - The Road to Ruin (1934)

The clock chimes midnight, and the projector clatters to life: welcome to the first edition of Adults Only!, a look into some exploitation films of the 1930s and 40s. No ratings - how can you rate these gems? - but insanely fun to watch.

It was so nice, she played it twice: Helen Foster reprises her role from the 1928 version as Ann, a sweet young thing corrupted by sex, drugs, and fast living. The typical cautionary film pattern applies: innocent is lured, by degrees, away from her sanitized lifestyle...eventually to end up sick, injured, eaten by aardvarks, what have you. In poor Ann's case, she dies lamenting her trek down the - you guessed it - Road to Ruin.

As with all warning pictures, you come away thinking "Boy, I really want to be friends with those people!" Probably not what the distributors had in mind. One frustrating thing was the glaring absence of a reel towards the end...though you get enough in context to figure it out for yourself.

Scorecard: drugs, smoking, sex, VD, abortion, alcohol

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bubbles, Burst

Thanks to Lya dePutti, who won the contest last week. She knew William Haines' best friend was Joan Crawford, and that he called her "Cranberry". She chose Margaret Leahy as my subject for this week - a woman with a painfully fascinating story.

she closed the box
she struck the match
and fanned the fire so it would catch

one of the "lovely hundred", what a scam

she watched the flames
consume the pile
her winner's photo - what a smile!

chaplin and griffith's welcome telegrams

she had the look
but couldn't act
Schenck noted this with little tact

and cast her in her only claim to fame

keaton met her
on the dock
and subsequently felt the shock

of being trapped beneath the talmadge name

the ephemera of November
now naught but grief and smold'ring ember

Margaret Leahy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Unholy Three (1925)

Tod Browning is the supreme master of the odd, and Lon Chaney his muse.

Chaney plays Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist with an eye for jewels (and theft). Dissatisfied with the meager goods brought in by Rosie (Mae Busch), he forms an alliance with the Hercules the Strongman (Victor McLaghlen) and Tweedledee the "dwarf" (Harry Earles). Through the use of an elaborate and ingenious plan, they gain access to a wealthy home...but things fall apart when Hercules and Tweedledee decide to go back and finish the job themselves. Will they pin the crime on someone else? Will Echo be able to live with himself? What about Rosie? This is a gorgeous picture, atmospheric, with shadows thick enough to hide in; Chaney's ability to quite literally become anything is on fine display here. I also personally liked Earles' portrayal of Tweedledee - rough, sinister, and frighteningly dangerous. The contrasts between him and the role he plays in the plan were, for me, one of the most effective parts of the film.

Note: A remake was filmed in 1930, with dialogue added for the "talkies". The original cast was changed, with only Earles and Chaney remaining. I haven't seen this version but have heard that it has its own charms and is worth viewing.

I give this one:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tell It To The Marines (1926)

Let's get this out of the way first. I am most admittedly a William Haines fangirl. Having said that, this is Lon Chaney's picture all the way. Billy plays a wiseacre (shock, I know) who joins the Marines on a lark, only to be whipped into shape by the tough yet caring Sergeant O'Hara (Chaney). What a delight to see him in a non-horror role - his face is gorgeous to watch, beautiful, saying so much in its nuances and lines. Round out the cast with the lovely (though understated) Eleanor Boardman as the nurse both men have set their sights on, and you have a warm, surprisingly touching little picture, with mischief deftly inserted by Haines. There is a scene, close to the end, with Chaney and Boardman talking in a garden...I defy you to watch it and not feel your heart break.

I give this one:


Keep reading after the poem for an update - and a contest!

Witty, impish, brave,
Loved to misbehave.
On screen,
His boyish appeal
Guaranteed to steal
Each scene.
He switched his career
Later on - his dear
Designing instead,
Each floor plan, each spread
In his time, unique
Unafraid to speak
Of the way he lived:
Honest, sensitive,
and proud.

William Haines

Not everyone who reads this blog recognizes the stars I write about - so I'm going to start including a link for more information about them. There'll be a link added to the previous poems, too.

And now...a little contest! The first person to answer this riddle correctly gets to choose whom I write about next week. Ready?

William Haines' best friend was someone he rose through the ranks with when just starting out. What was his/her name - and what nickname did Billy call him/her by?

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An Award!

Thank you to Lolita of Lolita's Classics for giving me the Kreativ Blogger award! You can read more about it here at Flappers and Flickers.

An Award!

Thank you to Lolita of Lolita's Classics for giving me the Kreativ Blogger award both here and at Silent Stanzas! Now, there are some rules involved:

1) Tell you seven things that you don't already know about me.
2) Name seven other blogs to receive this award.
3) Leave a comment on each of the blogs I have nominated letting them know that I have given them an award.
4) And lastly, thank the blog that gave you the award.

Seven things you don't know about me:

• I'm addicted to Chapstick. I have a tube with me at all times. *grins*
• I don't drive.
• I've played the piano by ear since I was four years old (though I'm a little rusty these days).
• I'm single.
• Italian and American South folk beliefs, and really all religion, interests me greatly.
• I have a chubby black cat named Velvet who is my darling boy.
• I love to knit - been doing it only about a year and can't get enough!

There are too many wonderful blogs out there for me to pick just seven - so I complement all of you on your dedication and eloquence. Reading your blogs makes my day! ^_^

Monday, October 5, 2009

Three Talkies + a Silent = Busy Movie Weekend

This is a long one, so get something to drink and have a seat. Comfortable? Then let's start!

Just Imagine (1930)

Numbers instead of names, flying personal aircraft, babies from vending machines - a glimpse of the future, due to us in the year...1980! The quintessential paleofuture film, this movie features El Brendel as a confused and very funny transplant from 1930, trying to make sense of his new surroundings. This is Amy Jeanne's favorite movie, so I was a little disappointed when I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. The musical numbers were cute, but they slowed the pace of the picture for me. The deco sets and humorously inaccurate depictions of 1980 are glorious however - and more than enough reason to give this film a try.

I give this one:

Mata Hari (1931)

Oy. I vant to be ahlone after watching this film, if only to purge it from my memory. It stars Greta Garbo as the exotic dancer cum spy, and Ramon Novarro as her earnest and tragic love interest. The picture plods along, with stilted dialog and a strange chemistry between the two leads; Garbo is her usual languid self, and Novarro plays a (Spanish-accented) Russian pilot with his typical boyish verve. As an aside, the film contains little if any historical accuracy. I couldn't wait for this one to be over.

I give this one:

Torch Singer (1933)

"Give me Liberty or give me Love..."

So warbles the notorious Mimi Barton, played with pain and beauty by Claudette Colbert. She is a fallen woman, having attempted the straight and narrow, only to give birth to a daughter she must abandon. During her champagne-soaked slide to the bottom, an unexpected opportunity may enable her to reclaim the life she had lost. Your heart aches for Colbert; her emotions are raw, real, and difficult at times to watch. Both Lyda Roberti and Mildred Washington sparkle in minor but memorable roles. Keep your eye out for Toby Wing at the house party!
A very enjoyable picture - and Colbert does her own singing, as well.

I give this one:

Mantrap (1926)

Ernest Torrence and Clara Bow sounds like a romantic pairing that could only come up over too much vodka. However, throw in Percy Marmont and a crazy plot involving vacationing bigshots, rural Canadian trappers, and a perky manicurist who can't decide between the two, and you wind up with a very cute little picture! The vast majority of it is thanks to Clara. Her expressions...I could write for hours on how animated those eyes are. Dialogue is completely unnecessary when she is on screen. Torrence does a great job in a comedic role, and Marmont plays the flabbergasted business bigwig quite dryly. But the best way to enjoy this movie is to throw out the plot and just focus on Clara's beautiful, wonderful face. She is on the cusp of superstardom in this film and it is more than evident.

I give this one:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our Best Girl

A half-grown woman draped in love's first blush,
Or spunky child - a gangly playful girl
All smiles as she skates on each soapy brush,
The sunshine flashing in each sausage curl.
But don't be fooled! The Mary on the screen
Might look like innocence personified;
The real Pickford's business sense was keen
(She was yet Lottie's daughter down inside.)
She fought for actor's rights, for distribution,
Ensured the care of colleagues old and ill,
With Charles and Doug, began a revolution
That changed the movies - and continues still.
And if you happen to pass by Pickfair,
I have no doubt that Gladys lingers there...

Mary Pickford